ChaCha: A Ref Desk in Your Pocket? Not quite.

ChaCha says it wants to be your mobile BFF.  The question is whether your are ready to cozy up to this intriguing mobile resource.  ChaCha is a web / mobile service designed to put a virtual reference desk in your pocket. The concept is simple enough – you ask them a question and they text you an answer. The service is free, though any fees from your mobile service provider will apply. ChaCha.com is the site that directs users to and explains the service.

Here is how ChaCha works…  You can text your question to 242-242  or call the ChaCha hotline at 1.800.224.2242 to ask your question directly.  ChaCha then routes your query to one of its “guides”, who sends you a text response within minutes.  By registering for a free account online, you can even keep a log of your questions and answers.  ChaCha currently has over 55,000 of these “guides” globally and boasts 24/7 service.  It is ad supported, so that it stays free to users.  ChaCha’s mission is simple: “Providing the easiest way to access information while on the go.”  And yes, they are always looking to sign up new “guides”. 

The iBraryGuy Team decided to test ChaCha with a question to which we knew the answer. We also did a Google search to make sure the answer was readily available. We entered my question and with a click sent it to ChaCha. We very quickly received a text message with our answer. It was surprisingly fast and we were excited.  Sadly, the answer was not only incorrect, but YEARS out of date. In fact, from the context of the response, it was clear that our original request had been either misread or altered.  Even the fastest response is of no value if it is incorrect.   So we tried one more (again, knowing the answer and making sure it was readily available).  This time, we recieved a message that ChaCha was trying to find our answer, followed many minutes later by another incorrect answer.  Needless to say, our team decided to skip the “third time is a charm” rationale and end our testing for now.  With better accuracy (any accuracy, given our testing), the folks behind ChaCha may be onto something cool. Based on this test, however, they have some real work to do.

Manager, Researcher, Librarian

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